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Tsunami Saturday

February 27, 2010

Coconut Island

Looking toward Hilo's hotels from Coconut Island

Hilo, Hawaii made international headline news today after the 8.8 earthquake in Chile prompted the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center to declare a Tsunami Warning for much of the Pacific basin. Because Hilo was prepared to be “Ground Zero” for the arrival of the first wave, many Big Islanders spent a sleepless Friday night watching media updates and trying to connect with friends and family.

We are accustomed to the monthly siren tests that occur at 11:45 on the first working day of each month. But when the Emergency Alert System first sounded at 6am today, we knew that, this time, it was not “only a test.”

Island residents have been instructed to think of the sirens as a signal to tune in to radio or TV broadcasts for information from Civil Defense. Today, those at sea level were ordered to evacuate the tsunami inundation areas near the coasts. (For many people in Waikiki, this meant vertical evacuation, or moving up to the higher floors of condo buildings.)

The first waves were expected in Hilo just after 11:00am local time. The predictions were accurate, but, thankfully, the impact was very minor. We were home (safely outside the evacuation zone) watching live coverage from Hawaii News Now and could clearly see surges impacting water levels in Hilo bay, but no large waves were generated.

– Click here to view time lapse video showing ocean receding at Coconut Island

After Civil Defense issued the all-clear message, Tom and I headed out to do a few errands and look for a restaurant that might be open for lunch. Because so many places were closed in Hilo, we decided to head over to the bay to see what was going on.

When we arrived, the road leading through Queen Lili’uokalani Park was still blocked off, so we parked and walked over to the bridge to Moku Ola, better known as Coconut Island.

Workers were still clearing debris as we walked toward the bay, but, a few minutes after we arrived, the bridge was re-opened.  We were the first two people to start across the bridge, but it wasn’t long before others were joining us.

We never did find a place to have lunch in Hilo today, but we are thankful tonight that the bayfront area (and the rest of the Island chain) was spared any real damage.

We appreciate the efforts of the Civil Defense workers, Mayor Billy Kenoi and the media folks who stayed up all night to monitor the situation and to keep us informed. Most importantly, our hearts go out to those impacted by the earthquake that generated the tsunami.

The slideshow above is a set of 20 photos from our afternoon at Coconut Island. The last two photos, taken after we left the park today, are of Hilo’s memorial clock that stands as a reminder of the destruction and loss of life resulting from the May 1960 tsunami, which was also generated by a powerful Chilean earthquake.

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Links and Resources:

NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

Hawaii County Civil Defense

Sign up for Hawaii County Civil Defense Text Messages

Determine whether your location is in a Tsunami Evacuation Zone

February 1, 2010 Civil Defense/Emergency Alert System Press Release (PDF)

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